The Internet of Things is Going to Need a Lot of Juice
I had dinner with a real venture capitalist the other evening, and lived to tell about it. I can’t tell you everything we discussed that night (wink, wink), but I can say that we had a good talk about batteries. No, really.
The VC in question is a partner at one of the primo Sand Hill Road firms and, as usual, he was the smartest guy in the room. Or at least, at my table. The conversation ranged from food, to wine, to rusty cars, to a recent acquisition by Apple. He talks very fast, uses his hands a lot, and compulsively checks his phone during lulls in the conversation. I guess if I could make (or lose) millions of dollars on one call, I’d check my messages a lot, too.
I held out as long possible before writing anything iWatch related. The irony is that I am iFatigued with everyone iGuessing about an iUnnanounced product, and yet here I am contributing to the noise. ¡iCaramba! The proverbial last straw: I read a piece comparing Microsoft’s unannounced wearable to Apple’s unannounced wearable. OMG.
And AFTER deciding to write this piece—but before I could start—another piece appeared with the declarative headline “Here’s Everything We Know About the iWatch.” And because I cannot make up stuff this good, apparently the things we KNOW include:
Lattice's iCE40 Ultra and Xilinx at
Bienvenido a Fish Fry! Welcome to this week’s field programmable Fish Frying festivities. First to join the podcastin' party is Joy Wrigley from Lattice Semiconductor. Joy and I discuss how FPGAs are breaking into the IoT scene and why low power will make all the difference in tomorrow’s mobile designs. Joining the fun next is Barrie Mullins from Xilinx. Barrie and I chat about how Vivado is playing a bigger role in this year's X-fest and why this conference isn't just for FPGA designers.
Movidius Camera Processor Helps Drones As Well As Doctors
Video surveillance, CCTV, camera-toting drones, cellphone video, stoplight cameras – they’re everywhere! It seems as though no public space isn’t being recorded, filed, uploaded, and possibly analyzed for malfeasance. The common factor in all these scenarios is digital cameras.
And what do all digital cameras need? Lots of storage, lots of bandwidth, and lots of processing power. Grabbing frame after frame of unrefined, uncompressed video isn’t interesting. You need to massage the video before it’s useful. That means some combination of white balance, edge detection, smoothing, compressing, artefact reduction, and possibly image recognition. That’s a lot of work on a lot of pixels, in very little time.
New EEMBC Benchmark Measures Android Speed
“I don’t always benchmark my Android devices. But when I do, I prefer AndEBench-Pro.” – The Most Boring Man in the World Benchmarking, like economics, is a dismal science. Both are important and both are more complicated than the casual observer may expect. EEMBC is an expert at one of these.
The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark consortium (the second E is purely decorative) is a nonprofit group approaching its 20th birthday. The merry band of benchmarkers has expanded beyond its original remit of creating tiny benchmark kernels for stressing CPU cores, and it now offers a whole catalog of benchmarks large and small for just about anything. There’s an automotive benchmark, a Web browser benchmark, and now two different Android benchmarks.
Changing the World with Cell Phones?
Deciding what to write about for EEJournal is difficult. It is not that there is a lack of stories, but picking just one topic out of the many that are competing for my attention every day is sometimes close to impossible. But occasionally there are signals that just cannot be ignored. In the last few days these signals have all been pointing at wireless.
The biggest single signal was the Cambridge Wireless "Future of Wireless" conference. Cambridge Wireless is a community (its word – not mine) of "nearly 400 companies across the globe interested in the development and application of wireless and mobile technologies to solve business problems". Within the community, there is an active programme of events, many organised by one or more of the twenty Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
While top-flight bed & breakfasts would no doubt do a world of good for many IoT developers, the “B&B” in the title refers to BANDWIDTH and BATTERIES. Given all the ink spilled on IoT, these are two topics that do not receive the attention they deserve. The third important yet underserved topic is IoT security, and that will get a separate article of its own.
IoT bandwidth falls into the growing category of “challenges that need to be solved, and the sooner the better.” Many IoT devices rely on Bluetooth (BT), which will work until it doesn’t and that point is rapidly approaching. BT was invented and has evolved as a reasonable solution for a personal area network (PAN). The prime use model is your mobile phone and earpiece, heart-rate monitor, fitness band, cycling cadence-speed sensor, smartwatch, and the like.
New MEMS Accelerometers from mCube are World’s Smallest
Most startups have no product. This one has shipped 60 million products before coming out of stealth mode.
Say hello to mCube, probably the most successful chipmaker you’ve never heard of. In keeping with the company’s low profile, mCube makes little bitty motion sensors. Accelerometers, magnetometers, and even teensy gyroscopes. Most of those little chips have been sold to Chinese cellphone makers, but the company hopes that its fortunes will soon change.
Cellphones are just the beginning, says mCube CEO Ben Lee. The real volume is in the “Internet of Moving Things (IoMT).” (Oh, good, another marketing initialism. At least they’ve got that part of the startup strategy figured out.)
Will the IoT Use the Desktop or Cellphone Model?
It’s like we have two separate brains, and only one of them can be on at a time.
In one brain, we deal with desktop and laptop computers. These are machines we use to do work. (Well, they used to be until content consumption via tablets looked tempting, and then all computers had to be that, making it harder to do actual work. But that’s a separate topic.)
The work we do on our own computers is considered to be our private business. We connect the computers to the internet in order to get information or talk to other computers or buy stuff or whatever. Historically, it was an “option” to connect, but these days, it’s pretty much only black networks that have no outside access. For the most part, all desk- and laptops are connected.
I should probably start here by laying out my biases. I’m not a shopper. And when I shop, I like to be left alone until I need (and ask for) help. I think my worst shopping experience was in Shanghai at one of the markets where they hawk all manner of (probably counterfeit) goods. For someone like me (especially if you’re feeling moderately ill, as I was), it was like shopping hell – “Hey DVD!” “Hey watch!” People shouting from all directions, pulling on your sleeve, vying for your affections. (OK, just kidding – vying for your money.)
In these cases, I like to subscribe to the philosophy that some CEOs and other self-styled god-like humans do: Don’t speak to me until I speak to you first. Except that, for me, it’s not because I think I’m all that; it’s because I want to shop in peace.